Gorgeously written, with ferocious emotion in the caesuras of a sparse, unreliable narrative.

THE ROBBER GIRL

Robber Girl, raised by the thieving Gentlemen, knows better than to become tame.

When Gentleman Jack is arrested, the Judge takes the girl into his home. She’s wild: She bites, she can’t read, and she doesn’t know how to eat properly. And though the girl has an Affliction making it harder for her to speak to humans, she talks with her dagger, which scolds her endlessly. The Judge insists that she go to school (“school is a taming thing,” says the dagger). The Judge encourages her to name herself, and she chooses Starling (“what a terrible name,” says the dagger). The Judge has an astonishing dollhouse that was built for his recently deceased daughter, and Starling gets a quest from the affectionate dolls (“stop talking to the dolls!” yells the dagger). In a setting just slightly sideways from the 19th-century American frontier, it’s never entirely clear what’s the imagination of an almost-feral robber girl and what are the workings of a world where allegory and reality intertwine. Though the prose is symbolically laden, it’s never purple, and as Starling learns about good, kind people, her growing empathy is drawn in the gaps. The fantastical touches lend a beautiful unreality, although they also create an unfortunate connection between disfigurement and sin. All characters are White or light skinned.

Gorgeously written, with ferocious emotion in the caesuras of a sparse, unreliable narrative. (Fabulism. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6956-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of...

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) brings back the doughty young wizard-in-training to face suspicious adults, hostile classmates, fretful ghosts, rambunctious spells, giant spiders, and even an avatar of Lord Voldemort, the evil sorcerer who killed his parents, while saving the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from a deadly, mysterious menace.

Ignoring a most peculiar warning, Harry kicks off his second year at Hogwarts after a dreadful summer with his hateful guardians, the Dursleys, and is instantly cast into a whirlwind of magical pranks and misadventures, culminating in a visit to the hidden cavern where his friend Ron's little sister Ginny lies, barely alive, in a trap set by his worst enemy. Surrounded by a grand mix of wise and inept faculty, sneering or loyal peers—plus an array of supernatural creatures including Nearly Headless Nick and a huge, serpentine basilisk—Harry steadily rises to every challenge, and though he plays but one match of the gloriously chaotic field game Quidditch, he does get in plenty of magic and a bit of swordplay on his way to becoming a hero again.

Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of broad boarding school farce and high fantasy. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-06486-4

Page Count: 341

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti.

ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle meets Left for Dead/The Walking Dead/Shaun of the Dead in a high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse, complete with baseball (rather than cricket) bats.

The wholesome-seeming Iowa cornfields are a perfect setting for the emergence of ghastly anomalies: flesh-eating cows and baseball-coach zombies. The narrator hero, Rabi (for Rabindranath), and his youth baseball teammates and friends, Miguel and Joe, discover by chance that all is not well with their small town’s principal industry: the Milrow corporation’s giant feedlot and meat-production and -packing facility. The ponds of cow poo and crammed quarters for the animals are described in gaggingly smelly detail, and the bone-breaking, bloody, flesh-smashing encounters with the zombies have a high gross-out factor. The zombie cows and zombie humans who emerge from the muck are apparently a product of the food supply gone cuckoo in service of big-money profits with little concern for the end result. It’s up to Rabi and his pals to try to prove what’s going on—and to survive the corporation’s efforts to silence them. Much as Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (2010) was a clarion call to action against climate change, here’s a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat, while the considerable appeal of the characters and plot defies any preachiness.

Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-22078-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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